Chef Conference Recap
DevOps and automation are all the rage now a days and Chef is at the forefront. I spent Thursday and Friday of last week at ChefConf in San Francisco and heard some amazing presentations. The presentations were all recorded and are available on YouTube.
I wrote last week about a couple of keynotes that I attended, which you can find here. This post will share some more of the presentations I was able to attend, but also talk about the overall key points that all the speakers referenced.
One of the overall themes at ChefConf this year was how far Chef has come from just 4 years ago and how many customer's are using Chef for their orchestration needs. A few of the the statistics they shared with us are:
- 25,000+ users
- 1,300+ individual contributors
- 200+ corporate contributors
- 900+ community cookbooks
- 30+ local user groups
- Millions of downloads
IT Industrial Revolution
We are all in the middle of an IT Industrial Revolution! This was repeated multiple times during the conference. The first person I heard speak about it, and who put the most emphasis on this was Glenn O'Donnell. His entire keynote was based on how the advancements in cloud computing and automation are just as important as the Industrial Revolution was.
Albert Einstein said
The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
So, taking into account Albert Einstein's theory from above we have got to continue to innovate and come up with new solutions for the problems faced by IT.
Businesses love industrialization because of the following points.
- Cost Effective
- Managed Risk
There is too much risk in traditional IT, which is why we are now in the middle of "The next wave of industrial revolution". It is possible to industrialize IT, and make it run as smooth as a manufacturing plant. Admittedly this is a comparison I had not heard prior to reading Gene Kim's excellent book The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win.
Put some discipline into your IT by following a couple principles.
- Use ITIL as a guide for process but avoid the ITIL religion.
- Start with the "low hanging fruit". Change easy things first like incident response, change requests, configuration requests.
- Following processes is difficult for the traditional IT professional, it's time to break tradition. Make sure there is a repeatable process for all your tasks.
- If the work isn't strategic to your business, why do it? Hart wrote a post a while ago about Agility, and traditional architecture vs cloud architecture which can be found here. In this post he points out that there are services that handle mundane tasks for you. Why worry about running your own message queue, when you can have a service take care of that for you and then your company can focus on your application, and creating innovative features to provide a competitive advantage.
Jamie Winsor from Riot Games gave an incredible keynote on Berkshelf that you can find here. Jamie explained some of the benefits to using Berkshelf such as resolving and fetching cookbook dependencies. Using Berkshelf you can keep track of all your cookbooks in a local directory ~/.berkshelf by default. Berkshelf also creates versioning of these files so in case you forget to check something into Github you are not out of luck. Installation of Berkshelf is straight forward and easy to follow, you can find all the instructions on Berkshelf's site
Foodcritic was another tool that was mentioned. Foodcritic solves for two things.
- To make it easier to flag problems in your Chef cookbooks that will cause Chef to blow up when you attempt to converge. This is about faster feedback. If you automate checks for common problems you can save a lot of time.
- To encourage discussion within the Chef community on the more subjective stuff - what does a good cookbook look like? Opscode have avoided being overly prescriptive which by and large I think is a good thing. Having a set of rules to base discussion on helps drive out what we as a community think is good style.
Foodcritic is widely used for automated checking of cookbooks to make sure you do not run into problems when deploying to production.
Test Kitchen is a framework for running project integration tests in an isolated environment using Vagrant and Chef. You describe the configuration for testing your project using a lightweight Ruby DSL.
Test kitchen runs through several different kinds of tests, depending on the configuration. First, it does a syntax check using knife cookbook test. This does require a valid knife.rb with the cache path for the checksums stored by the syntax checker. Second, it performs a lint check using foodcritic, and will fail and exit if any correctness checks fail. For cookbook projects, it provisions a VM and runs the default recipe or recipes set as "configurations" (see below) in the Kitchenfile to ensure it can be converged. If a cookbook has minitest-chef tests, it will run those as well. If the cookbook has declared dependencies in the metadata, test-kitchen uses Librarian to resolve those dependencies. Support for Berkshelf is pending. For integrationtest projects, it provisions a VM and runs the integration tests for the project, by default "rspec spec". In either cookbook or integrationtest projects, if a "features" directory exists, test-kitchen will attempt to run those tests using cucumber.
Test Kitchen also has built-in OpenStack support.
An example config for OpenStack:
openstack do auth_url "http://220.127.116.11:5000/v2.0/tokens" username "bobby" password "p4ssw0rd" tenant "openstack" end
I've noticed a trend in the last few conferences I've attended. They have all had some kind of an unofficial track. Wayne wrote about this on the Rackspace blog where he discussed the "Hallway Track". Opscode provided the same thing, but added even a little more at ChefConf. They provided a "Community Track", which included rooms that were dedicated to allow conference attendees the opportunity to interact with presenters and ask them any questions they had.
These type of unofficial tracks are just as important in my opinion as the official tracks. This is where the community members meet together and discuss new features, and future plans for the projects they are working on.
ChefConf was incredible this year, and as it continues to grow and more companies become part of the DevOps movement we will continue to see great participation at these conferences and an increasing interest in orchestration tools and automation.
Hopefully I'll see you at next year's ChefConf!